A Dubuque County board recently signed off on construction of a building near Cascade where Iowa-grown barley will be malted for area breweries.
Black Gold Malt Farm will move its operation indoors in its second year, following the construction of a building in which to malt barley — much of which is grown right there on the farm of founder Kevin Miller.
Miller, as well as his brother Eric, started the business in 2018, malting in small batches. That test product found its way to Jubeck New World Brewing, which in September debuted the Local Special, a honey pale ale made with all local ingredients.
The team at Black Gold Malt Farm thinks that brewer interest in locally sourced malted barley is going to just gain steam.
“A lot of these brewers are wanting all-Iowa beer because of the Iowa hops that is around,” Kevin said. “For these breweries, it is getting really competitive, so they’re looking for the edge.”
In addition to Jubeck, Kevin has spoken regularly with other brewers in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines and Dubuque. Kevin delivers cider to many breweries already in his work for Crimson Sunset Winery, so he has those connections.
The practice of taking barley grown in Iowa, then malting it in Iowa, is almost unheard of, according to Kevin’s wife, Lisa Miller.
“I don’t believe there’s anybody in the state malting Iowa-grown barley,” said Lisa, also Kevin’s partner at Crimson Sunset. “They’re going to get that distinction of craft malters because it will be done in such small batches still.”
Kevin said the plan is to malt six to 10 tons per week.
“That sounds like a lot, but it’s the main ingredient in beer and there are 90-plus brewers in the state,” he said.
The operation still needs room in which to grow, though.
The team imported a malting drum from Canada and partially installed it onsite already. That’s necessary, as it is easier to construct the building around the central machinery of the operation.
The county’s Zoning Board of Adjustment unanimously signed off on issuing the special use permit for the project. Construction should wrap up in the coming weeks, and malt should be produced this winter.
Board members also approved a request from Crimson Sunset Winery, the estate vineyard and winery that Kevin and Lisa operate together.
The wines and hard ciders produced by Crimson Sunset are sold at about 20 bars and breweries throughout Iowa. Lisa said none of the winery’s operations will change.
The adjustment they needed from the board was to return to compliance with Iowa code, which changed July 1.
“We’re still going to be making hard cider. It’s just going to be categorized as beer,” she said.
County Zoning Clerk Angie Steffens said the new code changed the levels of alcohol by volume that act as boundaries for spirit classifications.